budget travel japan

Budget Travel Japan: 4D3N Japan for RM2500 (Osaka+Kyoto)

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Fun fact: I was an exchange student to Nagoya, Japan. 1 year in 2005/06. Went to high school and stayed with a host family. Japan is like my second home. It feels welcoming, familiar. I was happy to go back there recently, even if it was just for 4 days.

This was my fourth trip to Japan, and first through Kansai Airport. 4 days was way too short, but I took what I could. This is my budgeting for the trip, costing ~RM2500, covering Osaka and Kyoto. Read on for savings tips and travel recommendations 🙂

Related: Previous travel – Krabi, Thailand

2 weeks before my budget travel Japan trip: Booking flight and accommodation

I decided on Osaka because I really missed Japan and it was the cheapest flight. Then I added in Kyoto just to maximise my travel there. In hindsight, I spent way to much time transiting between places, but it was still nice. It made the trip feel longer.

The exchange rate when I left was 100 yen = RM3.90. A bit too high for my taste, but still a manageable amount. Flight aside, Japan is expensive. There’s no but about it – the standard of living is high, and space is premium. RM2500 is high for a 4-day trip – I can get at least 2 Asean trips out of it – but hey, Japan.

As such, I budgeted carefully. The RM2500 included my flight cost, which was about RM900.  I set aside 1000 yen per day for 3 days travel, with an additional 2000 yen for Osaka-Kyoto travel. I was too lazy to get the ICOCA card (like their RapidKL card), which ironically would make things more convenient, but you should get that too.

Accommodation-wise, I budgeted RM250-RM300 per night, and there were plenty of options for non-dorm, non-capsule hotel, non-love hotel places at this price bracket. Any lower you’ll have to resort to less private, but cheaper options.

Savings tip 1: I booked my flights and accommodations via Shopback (note: referral link) for the 1% (AirAsia) and (Booking.com) 8% cashback, respectively. I also stayed one night in AirBnB (note: referral link; get RM90 in travel credit).

Savings tip 2: Use a cashback credit card, and layer them as much as you can. I received AirAsia BIG points for this trip as well. Read my how to maximise cashback credit card article here.

Day 1 – Full Day Osaka

Arrived in Kansai Airport in the morning, took the Nankai line towards Shin-Imamiya station (ProTip: if you don’t know where to stay in Osaka, around this area is a good bet, especially if you value convenience to/from airport).

Visited: Osaka Castle, Umeda/Osaka Station and the sprawling malls, Conan supermarket (like Mr DIY but better!)

I didn’t really notice this before, but it’s really obvious now – many touristy places have signs and announcements in 4 languages: Japanese, English, Chinese (Mandarin?) and Korean. And there were a lot of Chinese tourists (characterised by big group tours and somewhat loud clothes that kinda stood out) and Korean tourists (characterised by those cheekbones and red lips) – they were everywhere at touristy areas.

Savings tip 3: Use Hyperdia.com to find out your train schedule and fare. I got cheaper train rides because of this website. There are many, many train lines in Osaka, and transferring between them are usually more expensive. This website helps you to find routes and stations within walking distance so you’ll get to save some money!

Savings tip 4: A pocket wifi is extremely, extremely handy. In my arrogance, I almost went without it, but so glad I decided to shell out this expense. I was contemplating getting one from a service provider in Japan, but dude those were expensive! I finally went with a Malaysian-based service provider. RM13 per day, so for 4 days my total wifi cost was just RM62 (including RM10 delivery, but you can also waive this by collecting from KLIA2). The company is called Travel Recommends (note: referral link) and they also loan pocket wifi to other countries for reasonable prices.

Seriously, if you go to Japan take Tip 3 and Tip 4. Trains are super confusing there.

Savings tip 5: If you want to eat sushi (and you do!), but at an extremely affordable price, I highly recommend Muten Karazushi. It’s a kaiten sushi chain where each plate of sushi is just.100.yen.each. With tax, it’s 108 yen, which is even cheaper than most plates at Sushi King. A big lunch for 2 cost us just 1490 yen. Look at all the options!

Japan for RM2500

Savings tip 6: You’ll see a lot of vending machines in Japan, especially for drinks. You’ll want to try some of them. I suggest Calpis Soda, interesting Coke/Pepsi (they have Pepsi Sakura, Diet Coke Lemon, etc), Green Tea, Coffees, and more. Look for 100 yen vending machines, not the 150 yen ones. Some places even have 50-60 yen drinks vending machines.

Japan for RM2500 10

Day 2: Travel to Kyoto

Left Osaka for Kyoto. With the help of Hyperdia, we got on the train with the cheaper fare. At Kyoto Station, you can store your luggage for 500 yen (instead of 700 yen for small locker in Osaka Station). Take the Bus day pass – it’s only 500 yen for unlimited bus travel (each individual ride is 230yen). Kyoto was one big makan fest: I had so much food.

This particular gyoza place, Chao Chao Gyoza is highly recommended – had the shrimp gyoza and vegetarian gyoza. Super delicious, lively atmosphere, cute staff, foreigner-friendly. I told this one staff in particular that he’s handsome and I think he blushed.

Japan for RM2500

Visited: Kinkakuji (ie the temple that was so beautiful a Buddhist monk committed suicide because of it; 400 yen entrance fee), Gion area (fun area to walk through)

Japan for RM2500

After Kyoto city was somewhat explored, it’s time to head to the hotel. Took the bus to Yamazaki Ryokan, which kindly upgraded my room. Extremely worth the money for a Ryokan experience. Bought lots of food throughout the day from Isetan food market and had a nice chilled out night.

There was this TV show about how different graters can affect the taste of grated daikons. Lady was testing at least 5 different graters, resulting in extremely fluffy grated daikons to extremely course grated daikons. Each taste-test was followed by long audience ‘eeeehhhhh’. Lol. Never change, Japan.

Savings tip 7: Many malls and supermarkets sell food/have food markets that will sell food at discounted prices before they close. Go between 9-10pm and you’ll get many delicious stuff at cheaper rate. I got most of the food below for good prices. From clockwise: Matcha dessert with bean paste filling, onigiri (umeboshi, katsuo), soy sauce dango (108 yen from Lawson’s), kani cream korokke, salad with goma dressing, salmon bentou, side dishes (garlic shoots and shrimp stir fry, sweet and sour shrimp, and some vege sesame dish).

Japan for RM2500

Day 3: Arashiyama and Osaka

Left the ryokan for Osaka, with a stop at Arashiyama. Arashiyama was dope! Go here and walk through the bamboo path. So serene, very cooling. Touristy area in a good way. Cute rickshaw abangs with beautiful, sturdy legs (OMG those legs). Old-school trams. Lots of things to see and do. Can’t recommend it enough!

Saw this cute stone couple, where people obviously balanced money on them. I thought it was adorable.

Japan for RM2500

Left Arashiyama with a heavy heart to go back to Osaka. Spent the rest of the day at Dotonbori and just walked around. Dotonbori is massive and a great place to just go window shopping. I visited some shops but didn’t really find anything I wanted (at the price I want). But I did manage to eat a lot 😀

Had lunch at Yayoiken (chain store; set meals ~1000 yen). Ordering food in Yayoiken was easy – they had the automatic machine thing where you select what you want, insert money, and give out tickets. The menu comes with English translation. Hand the tickets to the waitress and she’ll bring your food to you in no time. I can recommend it.

Walked around, had sweet potato taiyaki (180 yen) which was freshly cooked from the grill. Like a barbarian, I bit the head off first then promptly burned my tongue so naturally I angrily ate the rest until finish.

Japan for RM2500

Must-eat: Takoyaki (600 yen for 12) and Okonomiyaki (380 yen for squid). See the gooey bit? That’s the best part. It was a hot, sticky, delicious mess of a meal.

Japan for RM2500

Walked to DenDen Town, the Akihabara part of Osaka and went through anime shops. I was really, really into anime when I was younger but now it’s kinda meh, so I didn’t buy anything. I also browsed through sex shops, where I saw silicone vaginas of mermaids. Let that sink in for a bit.

Saw this Pokemon poster – had to take it discreetly. Ash said “Hey, be mine”. Moe! Blushing cute things are my weakness. Unf.

Japan for RM2500

There were so many visually stimulating things to see, hold and try. There were pet shops with heart-melting tiny brown toy poodles that jump around excitedly. There were young high school couples trying their luck with the crane machines (‘UFO Catchers’). There were groups of women taking purikuras and sharing the pictures. I like the fashion and the accessories and the quality of items offered and – guiltily – the consumerist culture.

Alas, it got dark too fast so I had to head back to my hotel to pack – my flight is early on the next day 🙁 Thankfully I stayed near Shin-Imamiya so it was an easy 40 mins train ride to the airport.

Savings tip 8: I’m sure you’ll want to get souvenirs. Kansai airport has 2 tax-free shops selling: flavored Kitkats (sighted: Hokkaido Melon, Matcha, Wasabi), Pocky, popular snacks including Shiroi Koibito. They also have mp3 players, rice cookers, watches, and some Disney stuff. If you want them to bring back home, it’s a good idea to arrive earlier and just buy from here, it’ll save you 8%.

Savings tip 9: Or just do what I do for souvenirs – supermarket. I bought shit ton of furikake and ochazuke packs. Small, light, affordable.

Total cost for Osaka+Kyoto trip

~RM1500 for flights, accommodation, pocket wifi, and travel to airport. Plus 27000 yen for everything else (~RM1000). So total was around RM2500. You can make your own Osaka+Kyoto trip cheaper by selecting other accommodation and maybe not eat as much as I did (but where’s the fun in that?), but otherwise my budget is pretty lean as it is.

Breakdown below:

Want to know anything specific about travelling to Osaka or Kyoto on a budget? Ask in the comments ? Liked this? Share it!

Item Budgeted (yen) Actual (yen)
Kansai airport to hotel (return) 2500 1840
Food+Drinks 15000 (5000 per day) 11405
Shopping/Entertainment 5000 3625
Transportation (within city) 3000 (1000 per day) 2620
Transportation (Osaka<>Kyoto) 2000 1710
Extra 7500 (2500 per day) 5800
TOTAL 35000 27000

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  1. Mermaid. WHAT ????
    HoMaigowd – you cracked me up soooo good !! Or bad !!
    I uber love Japan too – been dreaming of this trip forever – this time I thought of bringing my hubby and kids but I’m a little worried about them getting tired with the walking . Thanks for sharing your itinerary – this time I wanna skip the typical tourist temples etc.

    1. Hahahah I’m glad I made you laugh!
      Noooo don’t skip the tourist temples! Japan is unique because the there are a lot of internal tourism too, Japanese people like to visit their own attractions too, and they’re well-maintained. Some of them even visit the same temples but in different seasons.
      That said feel free to tweak your itinerary however you want 🙂

  2. I’m heading to Osaka this September and have no clue how much to budget for. I’m glad I found this post it’s really helpful and provided a lot of insight. I might consider squeezing in a Kyoto day trip too! Thank you so much! <3

    1. Hi Keryn,

      Oh lucky you, fall is a great time to visit Japan <3 Happy you find this useful! Enjoy your trip, I'm sure you'll have a blast!

  3. Hello. I enjoy reading your itinerary, haha. Got this one question I wanna ask. Is it difficult for person like me (who doesnt speak Japanese) to use public transport?

    1. Hi Fer,

      Thanks! I had fun writing the article 🙂

      Navigating the public transport is easy enough because there’s english everywhere, and people are nice as heck when you ask for directions. Remember that Japan welcomes lots of tourists and many of them are like you!

      But I do have to say it IS easy to be overwhelmed, because the stations there are not like our stations. Some are really, really big and have like, 10 exits. Some have multiple lines and platforms. But dont let that stop you. It’s part of the experience 🙂

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